The Wild Ways of Jackie Collins

By Jase Peeples
Originally published: The Advocate 2/10/14

Jackie Collins smiles as she recalls the first time she learned the extent of her gay fan following. “I had just written the book Hollywood Husbands and I went on the Tonight Show when Joan Rivers was hosting it,” she says.  “I wore a jacket and a black shirt – with a couple of the buttons undone – and a white tie. It was a very sexy and effective outfit. Then a few weeks later, there was a gay parade in Hollywood and tons of people were dressed as me and Joan Rivers. It was crazy. My friends drove up and down the boulevard taking pictures of them and that’s when I knew.”

Nevertheless, Collins admits her love affair with the LGBT community began long before that moment. “It may sound cliché, but some of my best friends are gay and I always have a better time with them than I do straight people,” she says. “That’s why I’ve written gay characters into so many of my books. Some have bigger parts than others, but I like to write about all colors, all identities, all sexualities – gay, straight, whatever. I write characters that I see in my own life.”

Collins’s tradition of LGBT inclusion continues in her latest novel Confessions of a Wild Child, a prequel to the best-selling author’s popular series of novels based on the Santangelo family, which tells the story of Lucky Santangelo’s early years. “I had so much fun writing it,” says Collins. “I think it really captures the character of Lucky Santangelo between boys, rock and roll, drugs, and sex. But I especially enjoyed getting into the character of Dario, her gay brother, who comes out in this book. I’ve wanted to delve deeper into his story for some time now and I loved exploring that brother/sister relationship.”

Over the years, Lucky has become a gay-fan favorite in Collins’s Santangelo family saga, a fact she says helped inspire The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook, a clever companion piece (due April 8) to her latest novel. “I think Lucky appeals to gay men because she is so kick-ass. She’s a strong woman, but she’s got that softer side as well,” says Collins. “So I was just sitting around one day and I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to give something back to the fans? Lucky loves to cook. She does it all the time and when she does it she makes it an event by bringing the family around. Now, I love that she is so family oriented and she’s a powerful woman. So I thought, let’s do a cookbook and make it a big love letter to the fans by including little scenes between the characters and use wonderful illustrations of Lucky looking fabulous with great clothes and jewelry.”

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While Collins has often made a point of distancing herself from the fictional characters she writes, the author admits the young life of Lucky Santangelo was partially inspired by her own. “Lucky as a woman is who I wish I was in another life, but Lucky as a teenager was just like me,” says the woman who was expelled from Francis Holland School for girls at 15 for smoking, truancy, and selling copies of a book of dirty limericks she’d written. “I would often run wild when I was around the same age and there were are a few scenes in Confessions of a Wild Child that were total déjà vu when I was writing them.”

Now 76 years old, the author’s wild side remains untamed – even in the face of royalty. Collins recently surprised herself with a bold statement she made when she met with the Queen of England to receive an Order of the British Empire award acknowledging her illustrious writing career.

“It was wonderful,” she recalls. “I flew to London for this appointment with the Queen, you’re given very specific instructions about how you’re supposed to behave with her. But when I met her and she said, ‘Miss. Collins you’ve written many, many books,’ I said, ‘Yeah, not bad for a school dropout, huh?’ I think that shocked her a little bit and it shocked me as well. I immediately thought, ‘I should’ve been more formal.’ But I wasn’t and she was delightful. She shook my hand, pinned the medal on, and off I went.”

Nevertheless, Collins’s ability to keep in touch with her youthful sassy side has served her well. The author announced she has partnered with Amber Entertainment to produce a movie adaptation of Confessions of a Wild Child and she’s already hard at work crafting the next chapter in the saga of her popular fictional family.

“I’m already working on a new book about the Santangelos and epic things are happening,” she says. “It’s about Lucky and her gorgeous 25-year-old son Bobby, who runs nightclubs across America, and her daughter Max, who is 18 and is becoming the current ‘it girl’ in Europe. They are all having their own particular adventures and then, of course, I bring in a Columbian drug lord – after all, this is a Jackie Collins book.”